Source Material II: Additional Biographical Information (1944-1969)


Janet Foster Newton (1944). From “Dorflinger Glass”, The Magazine Antiques, Jan, pp. 27-29 (reprinted in DiBartolomeo, 1974, Vol. 2, pp. 185-7):

One of the most skilled glasscutters of the time was employed [at C. Dorflinger & Sons]. He was John S. O’Connor, born in Londonderry, Ireland, June 6, 1831. Before the Civil War he had worked for Turner & Lane and E. V. Houghwought [Haughwout] & Co., both of New York City. After the War, in which he served, he returned to be superintendent of the Houghwought plant. The firm went out of business just as Christian Dorflinger was getting his glasscutting department started, and O’Connor was hired by him as foreman of the White Mills cutting shop, starting glasscutting with one frame. While there he invented many machines for glasscutting that completely changed the cut-glass industry. One of them cut glass in circular lines instead of straight. One of his patented designs was the Parisian, which was copied by many other glasscutters. While O’Connor was with him, Dorflinger also brought out two other popular designs which were widely imitated, Lorraine and Russian, the latter used especially for stemware. In 1892 he left Dorflinger and started his own factory in Hawley, Pennsylvania (p. 28 of original, p. 186 of reprint).

COMMENTS:

This is the first mention of a “machine” that could “cut glass in circular lines instead of straight.”

The Lorraine pattern was designed and patented by James J. O’Connor, John S.’s brother. Although the Russian pattern was cut by Dorflinger, the company did not originate it. The pattern is generic and, consequently, was never patented.

Dorothy Daniel (1950). From CUT AND ENGRAVED GLASS, 1771-1905:

“In 1883 John O’Connor, cutting shop superintendent, designed the Parisian [pattern] . . . the first design with the curved miter split” (p. 166). . . . “The Parisian pattern was the first to make use of the curved miter split. It was patented in May, 1886, by John S. O’Connor designer and cutting shop superintendent for C. Dorflinger & Sons and was assigned to the company which began cutting the pattern immediately. It became popular almost at once and started a trend in cut glass decoration which continued through the first two decades of the twentieth century” (pp. 191-2).

COMMENTS:

Daniel had access to the talk William Dorflinger delivered to the American Association of Flint and Lime Glass Manufacturers in 1902.

 

In addition, Daniel corresponded with James J. O’Connor Jr., John S.’s nephew.

Frederick Dorflinger Suydam (1950, reprinted 1989). From CHRISTIAN DORFLINGER, A MIRACLE IN GLASS. White Mills, PA, 45 pp.:

John O’Connor, Sr. was born in Londonderry, Ireland, moving to Canada at an early age and eventually coming to New Orleans. He served in the Mexican War with a company of Rangers under General Winfield Scott and finally located in New York City where he brought his family to live. His son, John, Jr., entered the glass cutting trade as an apprentice to the firm of Turner & Lane but when the Civil War broke out, he followed in his father’s footsteps by enlisting in the Union Army and serving as 1st Sergeant, Company “F”, 69th Regiment of New York Volunteers. After the termination of hostilities, he returned to glass cutting and about 1867 removed to White Mills where he was employed as foreman of the [Dorflinger] cutting shop.

In this capacity his inventive genius found useful expression in many original ideas, including the “feeding up” machine, hard wood polisher and various other appliances and devices, all of which tended to revolutionize the art of glass cutting. It should be further noted that in the perfecting of these new processes, he received invaluable assistance from Fred Farnham, son of Frederick W. and whose own creative ability was directly responsible for the invention and patenting of the brushes used for polishing glass. O’Connor proved an unusually able craftsman and after twenty-five years of faithful service with the White Mills concern, went into business for himself in 1890 by building an impressive $80,000 cutting shop in Hawley (pp. 37-8).

COMMENTS:

John S.’s father’s name was Neil not John S. Therefore, there are no senior/junior O’Connors. Suydam’s John Jr. is actually John Sarsfield O’Connor. He named his son, and eldest child, Arthur E., who, in turn, had three sons (and one daughter). Arthur named his eldest son, born in 1890, John S. If the S. stands for Sarsfield — and it probably does — then this John S. O’Connor should be referred to as John S. O’Connor II. Census records indicate that he was a foreman at a glass factory, probably the Goshen plant, in 1910.Patrick Sarsfield, earl of Lucan (d.1693), was an Irish-Catholic patriot who followed James II into exile in France. He commanded James’s forces in Ireland but was defeated at the battle of the Boyne (1690). It seems appropriate that Sarsfield is an O’Connor family name in light of Neil’s service in the final campagne of the Mexican War (1847-8) and his sons’ volunteerism during the Civil War. Revi mentions that one other brother served in the Civil War in addition to John S. and (one presumes) James J. Who was he? James J. also went to work at Dorflinger’s after the war, eventually becoming foreman of the White Mills cutting shop, probably after John S. left, according to Feller (1988, p. 100).

 

There is evidence (in the Illustrated Wayne County [1900] account) that Neil “brought his family to live” in NYC from Greenock, Scotland, in 1848, after his service in the Mexican War. This would indicate that the family was separated for about a dozen years. Independent evidence (the 1900 census) indicates that John S. was an immigrant in 1848.

Letitia Cusick Connelly (1964). “J. S. O’Connor, Glass Cutter”, Views, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 5-6 (summer 1964). Views is an official publication of the Orange County Community of Museums
and Galleries. Mrs. Connelly’s complete account is as follows:

John S. O’Connor was one of the most skilled glass cutters of his time. Born in Londonderry, Ireland, in 1831, he came to America while still very young, when his parents moved to New Orleans, La. His father established a jewelry business there. Later, when the family moved to New York City, young John entered the glass-cutting business as an apprentice with Turner & Lane, finishing his trade with E. V. Houghwout [Haughwout] and Company, but when the Civil War broke out he enlisted, becoming a sergeant in Company F, 69th Regiment.

After the war he returned to his old firm and was made superintendent of their glass works; later he went on to work for one of the most renowned men in the business, Christian Dorflinger at White Mills, Pa., where he planned the machinery used in this shop. It was through his skill and inventiveness that the art of cutting glass reached the high point that it did — he invented the “feeding-up” machine, a vacuum device which sucked up the ground glass that had previously been inhaled by glass cutters, making the work so hazardous.

From an artistic standpoint his contributions were considerable — he invented the hardwood polishers, indispensible in the manufacture of finely polished cut glass. In addition, he revolutionized the industry when he perfected his “Parisian” design, which he patented; previously all cutting had to be done in a straight line, and now one could use the circular cut. Specialists and collectors realize the enormous difference this new type of incision makes in versatility and beauty of designs.

Honors began to pour in, and glass which he cut won first prize at the Paris Exposition.

The handsome native blue-stone factory at the foot of Wallenpack [Wallenpaupack]Falls in Hawley, Pa., was built by O’Connor in 1890; it is still standing, a monument to his talents.

In 1900 he opened his Goshen factory; it was located in a large brick building on West Main Street (since demolished); it bore the large sign, “J. S. O’Connor, American Rich-Cut Glassware”.

Many of the local young men came, after finishing school, to learn the trade. It was a flourishing industry, and the opportunities were great. The O’Connor factory was equipped with all the latest inventions designed for the safety of the men, and from every standpoint was a desirable place for a man to learn his trade.

Fine examples of American cut glass are becoming more and more highly-prized collector’s items; choice examples are already going into museums.

Superbly designed and cut glass made during the “Brilliant Period” from about 1880 to 1905, are among the most eagerly sought examples.

With increased interest in the glass itself is a correspondingly enlarged interest in the historical data — information regarding manufacturers, factories and patent designs.

In addition to the value for posterity of the records that have been preserved relating to the O’Connor factory, Goshen can also be very proud of the fact that the largest collection of its glass is in Goshen, owned by the grand-daughter of John O’Connor. Part of the collection will be on view at the Hall of Fame of the Trotter in Goshen, during the week of July 18 to 25 [1964].

The rare Ruby cut-glass punch-bowl was made in Goshen, and is unique. [A photograph is provided, with a caption that reads: “This bowl was made in the J. S. O’Connor Glass Factory in Goshen and is now owned by O’Connor’s grand-daughter, Mrs. Letitia Connelly.”] A former worker recalls that a special leather halter was made to hold it, because it is so large and heavy; “it was,” he reported, “treated with tender care. It was EXTRA special, for it was being cut for the boss’s home.”

John O’Connor was the originator of many of the designs of pieces eagerly sought by collectors to-day; the “Parisian,” of course, with its curved splits, is especially highly [valued]; the Rattan, the Princess, the Renaissance, Florentine, Tuxedo, and his others show his unusual inventiveness and artistry.

The “Brilliant Period” of cut glass, beginning about 1880 and lasting for about 25 years is the time of production of most of the specimens most highly valued by collectors today; the scintillating and lustrous objects that were the status symbols of their day are becoming treasured heirlooms and even museum pieces today.

This was the period when trade-marks were registered. Some were merely printed on bits of paper and glued to the glass (soon washing away). Some were pressed into the glass blanks; others were etched on the glass with acid. Some firms (among them O’Connor) registered the patterns with the United States Patent Office, and among the treasured mementoes in the family are the pictures of the original patented designs.

While there were many hundreds of cutting shops in operation during these decades, not all of them turned out creditable work of quality. Some merely re-cut over pressed blanks, a technique that was to ruin the industry.

An expert can detect inferior wares; and the collector, if he is merely a novice, need not despair if he purchases from reliable dealers who do not stock anything that isn’t of fine quality, or sell anything that isn’t genuine.

“The discovery of a trade-mark”, Dorothy Daniels (sic), one of the experts in the field writes, “is conclusive proof of the origin of a specific piece of cut glass — but the absence of one does not discredit an otherwise fine piece.”

The size of the collection, and high quality of examples, and the unquestioned authenticity, since it has come down in the family, of the Connelly collection makes it extremely valuable for specialists and art historians.

[Original editor’s note: Goshen residents can consider themselves fortunate that the cut-glass collection of John S. O’Connor is located in their community, and that part of it will be on view during Goshen’s Semi-Quintennial Celebration from July 18 to 25 [1964]. In this article, O’Connor’s grandaughter, Mrs. Letitia Cusick Connelly, tells of her grandfather’s skill in this important art-industry.]

COMMENTS:

The patented “feeding-up” machine was used to polish the glass that had been cut, not to vacuum up the ground glass particles that resulted from the cutting of the glass. No patented vacuum machine has been found.

 

Various hardwood polishers (wheels) were in use at this time. None appear to have been patented by O’Connor.

 

There is no evidence that O’Connor was awarded a first, or any, prize at the Paris Exposition (1889).

 

Recent research indicates that the Goshen factory was opened in 1902, not 1900 (Barbe and Reed 2003, p. 192).

 

See separate file for O’Connor’s Cut-To-Clear Punch Bowl.

 

There is no confirmatory evidence that John S. O’Connor designed Dorflinger’s Princess and Renaissance patterns. (O’Connor’s “Princess” pattern was designed and patented by Arthur E. O’Connor in 1895.)

Pearson and Pearson (1965). From AMERICAN CUT GLASS FOR THE DISCRIMINATING COLLECTOR:

“[The Parisian pattern] was one of the first patterns to use the curved miter split. Frequent use of it characterized Dorflinger cuttings” (p. 41). . . . “Split Square” pattern: The Pearsons’ name for Arthur E. O’Connor’s patent no. 24,060 (p. 64). . . “One of [Dorflinger’s] outstanding cutters and designers was John S. O’Connor, Jr. foreman of the cutting shop.” (p. 119)

COMMENTS:

The “Split Square” pattern is called “Princess” by most dealers and collectors today.

 

John S. O’Connor was not a “junior.” His father’s name was Neil.

A. C. Revi (1965). From AMERICAN CUT AND ENGRAVED GLASS. Revi acknowledges Letitia Cusik Connelly in his Preface, and he includes a few photographs of her collection of
O’Connor cut glass. He provides no reference to Connelly’s account, however, and only paraphrases it, in part, as follows:

John Sarsfield O’Connor was born in Londonderry, Ireland, on June 6, 1831. He came to New Orleans, Louisiana, with his parents, where his father established a jewelry business. Later the family moved to New York City, where young John entered into the glass cutting trade as an apprentice in Turner & Lane’s cutting department. He finished learning his art at the old E. V. Haughwout & Company shop. When the Civil War erupted, John and his two brothers enlisted in the Union Army, in which he was a first sergeant in Company F, 69th Regiment. After the war he returned to his trade and was made superintendent of the cutting shop at E. V. Haughwout & Company. From there he went to work for Christian Dorflinger in White Mills, Pennsylvania.

O’Connor is credited with having designed the Dorflinger cutting department; he also designed some of Dorflinger’s finest cut glass patterns — “Parisian”, “Florentine”, “Rattan”, and many others. O’Connor invented a vacuum device which sucked up the ground glass, which had previously been inhaled by glass cutters, thus greatly lowering the mortality rate in this trade. He also invented the hardwood polisher and several other aids to the glass cutting trade. His “Parisian” pattern was the first cut glass design to use a circular cut, and for this he had designed special cutting wheels; previous to O’Connor’s invention, all cut glass patterns were engraved in a straight line (pp. 322-3).

COMMENTS:

Revi indicates that three O’Connor brothers served the Union cause during the Civil War. Who was the third brother?

 

No “special cutting wheels” are necessary to cut curved miters.

 

Several pattern names in Revi’s book are questionable.

Pearson and Pearson (1969). From A STUDY OF AMERICAN CUT GLASS COLLECTIONS:

“This pattern by the Maple City Glass Co. (formerly owned by J. S. O’Connor), is named “Temple” in their catalogue #10, circa 1910″ (p. 61).

COMMENT:

John S. O’Connor never owned the Maple City Glass Co., which was a subsidiary of T. B. Clark & Company. Clark bought O’Connor’s Hawley factory in 1902 and then moved its Maple City Glass Co. from Honesdale to O’Connor’s former factory.